Jon Gruber: "This Is How Apple Rolls"

Jon Gruber of Daring Fireball has a pretty good writeup on Macworld regarding Apple and their history of product development. Grubes points out that Apple never releases a blockbuster product. They start off well enough, but always with enough problems/missing features that there's work to be done. Over the course of the next few years, Apple will polish that pearl until it shines. This is obvious when you consider something like the iPhone, which was far from perfect with the original product: no 3rd party software, no 3g service, etc. Now, as we look to the summer's iPhone 4G (or HD, as it will probably be called), so many features have been added that it's miles better than the original, which was only 3 generations ago. In his article, Gruber points out that Apple has done much the same with OS X:

One example is Apple’s oldest core product: Mac OS X. It took four difficult years from Apple’s acquisition of NeXT in 1997 until Mac OS X 10.0 was released in March 2001. Needless to say, those four years were… well, let’s just say it was a difficult birth. But from that point forward, Mac OS X’s major releases have appeared regularly (especially by the standards of major commercial PC operating systems), each better than the previous version, but none spectacularly so. Snow Leopard is vastly superior to 10.0 in every conceivable way. It’s faster, better-designed, does more, and looks better. (And it runs exclusively on an entirely different CPU architecture than did 10.0.) But at no point between the two was there a release that was markedly superior to the one that preceded it.

Well put; I've never considered any one release of OS X essential, but they've all added useful features that build it into a stronger, more coherent OS. Windows, on the other hand, slowly axes older machines with each OS release (OS X only 2 years ago finally cut out non-Intel Macs.) Each Microsoft OS feels markedly different from the last and fixes so many problems that everyone wants it, whether they pay for it or not, in the hopes that it will be the amazing product Microsoft has been promising all this time. While it does appear they might have finally gotten something right with Windows 7, they couldn't afford not to have done so; Apple's market share is holding steady and the iPhone has caused many to consider change.

The iPad, as I see it currently, is inessential. I felt the same way about the original iPhone, thus my waiting a year before buying in. Once the iPhone 3G launched, there was no way I could consider not getting one. The 3GS was a minor upgrade, but to someone who still has a 3G, the new iPhone will be an easy sell, due to all the features it has that they can't use. Apple has a history of slowly, methodically, dragging their users into new devices/OSes. I can forgive them, though, as their old products continue to work and are still utterly useable. I just passed down an 2004 iMac to my parents as I finally upgraded, after 6 years, to a glorious 27" iMac. Six years from now, I'll probably repeat the process, unless an iPad has become my computer of choice. Given Apple's track record, that doesn't seem far-fetched.
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